January 12th, 2020. That’s the last time the Green Bay Packers have played in front of a fully-packed Lambeau Field crowd. 617 days.
Remember watching that game? Divisional game versus the Seahawks. First year of Matt LaFleur. Rodgers and the offense were dealing. The Smith brothers were terrorizing Russell Wilson. Take a second and watch those highlights. It’s like watching a game from a different era.
Think about your feelings during that game. Celebrating when Adams highstepped his way into the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. Feeling anxious as they reviewed the spot on that Graham catch. And finally the hope that this team had something special enough to go into San Fran, avenge the worst loss of the year and win another Super Bowl.
You know what happens next. Part one in a series of unfortunate championship events. But even more so, our world was changed almost overnight not too long after that game. No more going into the office, seeing friends and family and, of course, no sports.
Would you have done anything differently if you’d known it would be the last game you watched with a full home crowd in over a year and a half? I watched that game with my dad and family. I decided at the last minute to make the trip over. Looking back on it during last season, as I watched almost every game alone, the impact of that last home game hit even harder.
I’ve been looking ahead to this game for awhile. Most of the football-related events we’ve had since that game feel tainted in some way. Last season was a blast, but watching highlights from last year really…well, highlights how different those games were without fans. And both draft weekends have been complete train wrecks from an enjoyment standpoint.
But this is the first weekend things feel normal. I’m going to be back in the city I love with all my favorite people and I’m going to get to spend hundreds of dollars to sit on a metal bleacher and watch my favorite team again. We’re running this thing back. LFG!!!
Then last week happened. On top of questioning everything from my faith in Matt LaFleur as well as the existence of some kind of benevolent all-knowing creator, a sense of dread overtook me. “What if they look like this next week when I’m there?”
I’ve talked before about what this team means to me and my family. In particular, these home opener games are something we hold special. We’ve been making the trip for the home opener since 1988. It was hard not to be able to continue that streak last year, instead watching it from home with the family (outside, socially distanced).
I obviously root for the Packers to win every game, but it takes on a different feeling for the home opener. It’s usually the one game a year I’m able to attend, I don’t want to see them lose! I’ve been very lucky that I’ve only seen one loss in person, back in 2012 against the 49ers. I…didn’t handle it well.
Back to earlier this week. That anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach, worried that my first trip back to watch this team in person would be getting their lunch handed to them again by the worst team in the division on national television. And getting to spend a good chunk of change for the privilege! Isn’t being a fan great?
The shock of the loss subsided in a day or so and I was able to process things better in an alcohol-free state. What we saw from this team Sunday was troubling. Is it predictive of what they’ll do Monday? Is there a chance this is a real bummer of a game to watch? I guess we’ll see.
You know what though? Who cares? After the year plus we’ve been through – the people, the moments, the growth we missed and lost – who cares what the score is? Yes, it will be exponentially better to watch Jordan Love take over in the 4th because the Packers are up 38-3 instead of down.
But we get to be there. I get to be there and watch Aaron Rodgers in person, maybe for the last time. I get to be there with my new wife and my unborn son (if this game goes well, I’m counting this as his first game). I get to be there with family and friends, some of whom I’ve never actually met in person before. And I get to be there with 80,000+ Packers fans.
Let’s not take that for granted anymore.